Love at first sight is a concept as old as fairytales, and for a lucky few is as real as night and day. However, in today’s dating world, apps like Tinder, Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel have given the phrase new meaning with a right swipe. This new speed of attraction provides a convenience, but leaves some people yearning for a simpler time when love at first sight was an enchanted possibility every Friday night.
This pre-smartphone time is where the world was introduced to Darius and Nina in the movie “Love Jones.” In 1997, when the film came out, cupid’s arrow shot two sexy 20-somethings at an open mic night in a Chicago club. It was love at first sight, but not without its challenges, or ecstasy.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the film, the national tour of the new production “Love Jones, the Musical” is making stops in Georgia at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in Columbus on Nov. 10, the Fox Theatre in Atlanta Nov. 11-13 and at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta on Nov. 25. The cast features award-winning R&B/soul singers Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Marsha Ambrosius, Raheem DeVaughn, Dave Hollister and rapper MC Lyte.
“At first, we were going to cast the show with actors, but then we started looking at R&B artists, and the cast started to evolve,” Melvin Childs, the show’s producer, said. “We tried to fuse the concert world with the play world, and I think we did that. The artists are really showcasing their hearts for the audience.”
The stage play takes the essence of the film and tells its story through covers, favorite songs from the musicians and a handful of original songs. DeVaughn wrote an original song that will be on the musical’s soundtrack, which is produced by MC Lyte.
“This has been a great opportunity for me to try something new and be around people who I love,” said DeVaughn, who portrays a playboy-type character named Hollywood. “You’re seeing some of the best talent to come out of black music and theater from the last three decades.”
The film, set in Chicago, introduces Darius and Nina at an open mic event at a nightclub. Darius, a writer, and Nina, a photographer, connect instantly over poetry and music. But the budding relationship is challenged by their career ambitions and exes lingering in the background. It was “It’s Complicated,” before “It’s Complicated” ever became a relationship status or a movie. Larenz Tate and Nia Long starred in the film, along with Bill Bellamy, Lisa Nicole Carson and Isaiah Washington. Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele portray Darius and Nina in the musical.
The movie quickly became a cult classic, and is considered one of the best urban cinematic love stories of the ’90s. The film was lauded for portraying an intellectual and Afro-centric side of black culture that was not reflected on the silver screen at a time.
“The love story in ‘Love Jones’ is something you don’t see in black films often, and we thought that would translate well onstage,” Childs said. “We re-created the story and added some new characters and original music. We also brought it up-to-date a little bit — there’s a text messaging scene that has a nice surprise for the audience.”
The musical adaptation was written by Timothy Allen Smith and directed by Zadia Ife. The film’s original writer and director, Theodore Witcher, serves as consulting producer. In the stage play, songs tell the story with some iconic lines from the original movie.
“This is the musical, not the movie, but it is completely inspired by the film,” said MC Lyte, who plays the owner of the club Sanctuary, where Darius and Nina meet. “I hope audiences will be entertained and have a chance to see their favorite artists in a different way. As I’ve grown to know more about the play, I have learned more about love. Come with an open palette and be entertained.”
“Love Jones, the Musical”
The show is also making stops in Georgia at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in Columbus (900 Broadway), $68.50, http://www.rivercenter.org ; and at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta (712 Telfair St.) at 7 p.m. Nov. 25, $47-$77, www.augustaentertainmentcomplex.com.
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